Don’t waste time counting on SPLM for salvation

By: Justin Ambago Ramba

September 9, 2013 (SSNA) — After having enjoyed the brilliant article written by my fellow countryman Duop Chak Wuol, the Editor-in-Chief of the South Sudan News Agency, under the heading “The SPLM and the Rise of Autocracy in South Sudan”, I felt obliged to write a bit of a critique for this wonderfully done job.

Thank you Chief Duop Chak Wuol for an article well written, indeed you left no stone unturned as you navigated your way through this tedious journey to analyse the past, the present and the future of South Sudan and its diverse people in what looks like a rendezvous with destiny. I must also comment you for the possible scenarios that you in a kind forecasted for South Sudan under the title of “Possible Consequences”.

Although I concur with most of what came in your forecasts, I just think that some of the scenarios therein are already everyday realities on the ground, unless of course we want to say that our country was doing well prior to the July 23rd 2013 President Salva Kiir’s bloodless internal coup.

While I don’t claim to know it any better than my fellow compatriots, South Sudan is already awash with tribal politics and communities deeply divided on regional and tribal lines. Whether this could go on to encourage or incite ethnic or regional rebellions, deepen mistrust between communities in the already fragile society, and further destabilize the new nation, is a thing left for time to tell.

Secondly the ruling SPLM party has also since long lost its vital grounds and regional politics have in the latest political transaction ascended to become the country’s number one place for political refuge, started by President Kiir and the rest followed suite. Again whether this is likely to cause any uprising against the ruling party, as you suggested is also left for the days to confirm.

No two sound minded South Sudanese can disagree on the fact that the new country’s so-called national parliamentarians have given in and are openly being influenced or guided by regional and tribal politics.

Those who are closely following the events as they unfold in Juba and the state capitals, are already familiar with the one single truth that National or party politics, in this case has completely been reduced to define only how politicians adjust themselves to appease the president as His Excellency  bulldozes his self-centered reforms.

Thus the national priority has long shifted from finding solutions to the national questions, formerly presented as the SPLM party’s slogans in the 2010 general elections and again parroted on the day of Independence. Now everything has shifted to how to make an immortal king out of the incumbent SPLM chairman.

A clear case in point is how President Salva Kiir poured millions of dollars in the regional conferences held both in Juba for the Greater Equatoria and in Wau for the Greater Bahr Ghazal prior to the last cabinet shakeup, in spite of the deafening calls  for the ruling party’s convention. Obviously a nationally oriented SPLM has given way to the newly conceived regionally oriented SPLM. Although this may guarantee a safe hold on power for the incumbent chairman, its implications on the future of the party is a thing that will come back to haunt not very long from now.

Hear it from your opponents and not your friends, for even now as things stand president Kiir has become more inclined to doing business with MPs as regional and tribal blocks. And if this is not cementing regionalism and tribalism at the expense of political party democracy, then what is it supposed to lead to?  

Unfortunately the good talk about SPLM changing its current political attitude and departing with its autocratic tendencies remains largely inconceivable as it falls on deaf ears. The question is when wasn’t this party led autocratically in its three decades’ life span?  We can’t expect President Salva Kiir who is now everything in the country to take any suicidal step by opening up to some kind of an intra-SPLM democracy that will only see him out in the streets, the next day.

The democratization of the SPLM would have been possible immediately following the CPA in 2005.  But it never happened because some people chose to handle the country’s top priorities as if they were running a family business, and not a state that they share with other ten million compatriots.

In short, talking of democratizing the SPLM party is a more hopeless project than selling ‘cow dung cakes’ in a cattle camp. It simply doesn’t make sense. And it won’t either make sense to the current leader who is yearning to stay in office forever!

The SPLM party you are referring to is now a one man property. Whether the SPLM-led government is prepared to face the serious consequences that will arise from the new dispensation will largely depend on how much political potential is still left in it. 

However I must say that the true point lies in the emergence of a new political party that can vigorously challenge the status quo. As you put it in your article, and I quote:

“A popular and possibly stronger political party will emerge, and the SPLM will eventually lose its hold on the political, economic, security and military spheres”.

Without the least doubt, the salvation of South Sudan lies in the emergence of this second more popular and stronger political party which will not only steal the show from this corruption riddled SPLM, but will also provide the much needed political and socioeconomic redemption to this new nation.

However in spite of the political environment being ripe for  a second political organisation under which South Sudanese opposed to the status quo can rally, it is unfortunate that the different opposition groups are being held behind by equally personal greed at the level of their leaders who can’t see the woods for the trees. 

It is my personal understanding that most if not all of the current South Sudanese opposition politicians, were at one time either members or supporters or sympathisers of this degenerating mother SPLM party. Nevertheless they left it when the party wasn’t anymore what they thought it was or should be…….no vision, no mission, and no democracy. This being the case, is it not now time that they all come together to realize a one party which is not like SPLM in its downsides?

But no, it seems that for a good number of these so-called opposition figures, the SPLM aura and the culture of free for all, has succeeded to neutralize them.  And instead of trying to oust the SPLM from leadership as most were made to expect, these guys are planning to keep SPLM in office while running under the table dealings with it. If I were to head the cabinet affairs of an SPLM-led government, then you would understand what I mean!

The situation is not any different with those senior SPLM members who recently fall off with President Salva Kiir who is also the SPLM party chairman. None of the humiliated SPLM party officials is showing any signs of quitting to challenge the current leadership from outside the SPLM.  And under the sweeping re-structuring, any such a move from within will just be labeled as treason and no more.

President Salva Kiir had on more than one occasion gone ballistic and insulted his senior colleagues over the SSTV or in the Assembly Hall and all they did was to keep quiet.  He again insulted their collective reasoning in the national legislative assembly by threatening to dissolve the parliament; no one amongst the SPLM rebels uttered a word. Instead to everyone’s astonishment the only visible protest came from an independent MP none but Dr. Richard K. Mulla.

What we are seeing here, I am afraid is a situation where many of our so-called politicians, are now cowed down only to consider issues that guarantee the safety of their daily breads, a thing many would not want to risk. And this one, President Salva Kiir knows very well, just like the back of his hands. True leaders with guts are too few and worse still their actions are not coordinated, giving the dictator a wider space for maneuvering.

As per the argument on the emergence of a new rebel movement that is far more powerful than any current or previous rebel groups, to surface at the current time, as you speculated, I think although it cannot be completely ruled out due to the fluidity of the existing political and socioeconomic situations on the ground, but however should it happen, it will really be very unfortunate to say the least.

I can see your point when you said, and I quote:

“In all successful societies, everyone must be willing to make sacrifices and the SPLM’s elites and citizens alike are not immune from these social responsibilities”. I cannot agree with you more, albeit a peaceful and democratic transfer of power would have saved us all these.

Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba can be reached at: [email protected]

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